Johnson C. Smith UniversityLifestyle

JCSU Embraces Inspiration With Civil Rights Icon Harvey Gantt

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at Johnson C. Smith University was a morning of reflection and inspiration, starting with soulful songs and a warm meal. The event, graced by the presence of Civil Rights icon Harvey Gantt, was a stirring tribute to King’s legacy.

Dr. Jordan Brooks, associate vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and Title IX Coordinator, moderated the event. Dr. Valerie Kinloch ’96, president of JCSU, initiated the proceedings with insightful remarks about the connection between Dr. King and poet Langston Hughes. “When I think of that poem, I realize that Martin Luther King Jr. told the world, ‘I, Too, am America’ through his work,” she said. “As your president, I stand in the legacy of Dr. King with the goal to lead with love and compassion, reignite passion and forge a future of Black excellence.”

Following welcoming remarks by SGA President Sydlie Fleurimond and Justin Jackson from Alpha Phi Alpha, Dr. King’s fraternity, the event transitioned to a compelling discussion with Gantt, moderated by Dr. Jasmin Corbett. Gantt shared his insights on Dr. King’s awareness of the long-term effects of slavery and segregation. “They did serious damage to people of color, and that made it so we weren’t starting off with the same opportunities as others,” Gantt reflected.

Gantt’s own journey of activism began in high school, with his involvement in the NAACP Youth Council and participation in lunch counter sit-ins. A pivotal moment was when he first heard Dr. King speak, an experience that profoundly influenced his path. Gantt’s pursuit of a career in architecture, despite the challenges faced as a Black student during that era, marked a significant stride in breaking barriers in the profession.

He spoke about his struggle to enroll at Clemson University, culminating in a victorious lawsuit, and his eventual achievements as the first Black student at Clemson and the first Black mayor of Charlotte. Gantt emphasized the importance of civic duty among students and the role they play in progressing society. “We are in an age where the ability to discern has never been so important,” he advised. “We’ve got to remember where we came from as a people so we can chart our course to where we want to go.”

Gantt concluded with heartfelt words about Johnson C. Smith University, underscoring its importance in fostering growth and opportunity. The event, which also featured performances by student leader Ashton Williams and Residence Hall Coordinator Owen Forbes, ended with a collective rendition of “We Shall Overcome,” leaving attendees inspired and motivated.

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